Page 2 - A Closer Look, Usage
First off, what is a LapAir? Is it like when you are getting a lap dance on an airplane? Well, if you are, I would like to know where you booked that flight! More seriously, 'LapAir' suggests that it involves your lap, and 'air' seems to come from the fact this is an air-based laptop cooler. Not that I have really seen any other kind, making it a little pointless to state it. Then again, calling it a NotePal Lap would not make any sense. If the Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim is considered the slim one, then this guy would be its not-so-slim big brother. The NotePal LapAir is all black, minus the Cooler Master branding, of course; and it is, for the most part, plastic. The top half has a metal mesh cover, and there is a raised 'soft' padding along the bottom side. Cooler Master, for some reason, decided to attach a tag to the right side of the metal mesh cover. Considering you can clearly see the Cooler Master trademark at the top left corner, I would have to say this is a case of over-branding, and worse off, an annoying tag sticking up on the front. I have a laptop cooler here, not a new shirt. On the plus side, the Cooler Master NotePal LapAir is certainly large enough to handle 17 inch laptops, but it appears to be a bit too large for 11 or 12 inch notebooks. Although it isn't exactly portable due to its size of 430 x 316 mm, it would work perfectly fine around the house.
My first impressions of the cooler's top side comes with some disappointment; it has the feeling of somewhat flimsy plastic, and it has only a tiny fan considering its size. This cooler is meant to be placed on your lap, which I can understand the small size of fan; however, this design is easily able to accommodate two or even three fans. Along the edges of the top, you can find a nice plastic ridge. It will help to ensure your laptop stays in place while it is riding on your lap. Adjacent to the metal mesh, you will find the obnoxious plastic tag that I'm so tempted to cut off, simply because it is an eyesore for me. Other people may find it to not be such a nuisance, but personally, it drives me up the wall. The top looks fairly simplistic, and that's a good thing for a laptop cooler.
The Cooler Master NotePal LapAir also suffers from the same problem as the NotePal X-Slim, in that there is no way to turn off the cooler, other than by physically unplugging it. This is an issue, because if you have a laptop with limited USB ports, I would expect you might have something plugged in the USB port extender. If you want to turn off the cooler, you will also have to reattach any devices connected through the LapAir. On the other hand, I won't consider this as bad as it sounds, because the cooler is designed for your lap. This means it wouldn't be as likely for a user to have anything more than a mouse in that situation -- if at all -- so it is quite likely that the USB port extender is not in use. When the NotePal LapAir is being used, hot air is blown upwards onto my hands. I know I will probably enjoy that in a cooled computer lap, but the rest of the time, I'm going to probably end up with sweaty palms. When placed on my lap, the LapAir actually makes my laptop significantly more comfortable and ergonomic while I'm using it. Ergonomic -- why do I always picture a person sitting in a computer desk chair when I hear that word?
The left and right sides of the Cooler Master NotePal LapAir are completely identical. This cooler isn't adjustable, and is basically designed to be used as is. Fortunately, you can route the USB cable through a wonderful groove, so that it comes out nicely on either side. Depending on where the USB ports are on your laptop, you can choose between having the cable come out the middle of the sides, or towards the rear. I'm going to be a bit critical here and state Cooler Master has gone overboard with the length of the wire. It is designed so that no matter which side you're choosing to route the wire, you can easily re-clip the USB connector. That part is great, but when you have a cable that is roughly two feet long coming out of the bottom side, it leaves a significant amount of loose wiring kicking around. The last thing I want when I have a laptop on my lap are loose cables around my chair. This isn't an overly huge issue, but certainly something worth noting. The Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim had a much better wiring solution than the one used for the NotePal LapAir. I'm slightly disappointment considering the LapAir is actually a bit more expensive.
The bottom is where all the features of this massive cooler are located. Here, we can find the key feature of this laptop cooler; the comfy sponge mat. The texture of the mat is aesthetically pleasing, but it feels fairly rough like a hard carpet, so don't rub it on yourself. The sponge in the mat is adequate being reasonably firm, so it provides decent support when physically loaded. Along the front edge of the back side is a nice rubber grip, just in case you are worried about the cooler slipping off your lap. Now, if you are worried about that, I would certainly be questioning what you are doing with a laptop on your lap. The mat on the back is elevated up, and on the rear edge are vents for the single fan. This design is isn't quite as intuitive, because it allows the cool air to be sucked from in front of you, and hot air is blown on your hands and at your face. Basically, while your laptop is being chilled, you are not. At the middle of the bottom, there's a slot where the USB connector clips onto the NotePal LapAir when it isn't being used. This is identical to the clipping mechanism found on the NotePal X-Slim I have recently reviewed. Overall, this clip works very well at keeping the USB connector attached when in transport, but is easy to remove and plug into your laptop. That way, you don't have to fight with the Cooler Master NotePal LapAir before you go and fight some Zerg! Well, enough about how it looks and what features it has, I think it is time to try it out, and see what it can do.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look, Usage
3. Testing and Conclusion